Are you a journaler? I’ve tried to be, several times, but it never quite seems to take. Much like this blog, I start out strong and then taper off, then start again, and taper, and so on. I’m always a little in awe of those who journal regularly. I do, however, have a little addiction to buying blank books. Every gift shop has the most appealing blank books calling out to me, yearning to be filled.

My most successful attempts at journaling have always been while traveling. I’m definitely more dedicated to, if not daily at least regular, musings. Of course, some of these are rather mundane accounts of where I went, what I saw, and what I ate, but others are more historical and philosophical as I reflect on the days events. The best travel journal I ever kept, however, I didn’t keep at all. Instead of recording my thoughts in a charming blank book, I wrote letters to my mother and posted them from Europe on a regular basis. Talking to someone else, rather than myself in a journal, inspired me. My mother could tell that this was my journal of sorts, but they were also missives to her, detailed and chatty.

Lately, I’ve been doing a different kind of journaling, well different from the above at least; I do this kind of journaling, it seems, at the beginning of every school year. Once a week, I give my students a prompt. In exchange for not having to worry about grammar, spelling, and punctuation, they have to write non-stop for ten minutes. I want them to expand their thinking and free their writing; I want them to go beyond the quick two sentence answer to the question. I want them to see that they can write more. And then, I show them how it’s done. I write with them.

The funny thing is that I write in response to that same prompt four times over the course of the week, two one day two the next, as I present it to four different classes. Sometimes I just keep going, picking up where I left off in the last class; other times, I go off on tangents. This week we were responding to Vijay Seshadri’s “Memoir,”particularly the lines that “the real story of a life is the story of its/humiliations.” The students were asked to agree or disagree. I began my scribblings only to find myself off on a tangent about the book I’m currently reading (Foursome: Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keefe, Paul Strand, and Rebecca Salsbury by Carolyn Burke) and what those people might think about humiliations which naturally led to musings about whether they could be humiliated at all to Burke’s writing style to…to…to… You see how it goes. And honestly, if my students go off on tangents like this, I don’t mind–as long as they keep writing for the full ten minutes. Follow the thoughts where they flow.

So I guess, this is my type of journalling. Forget about what I ate-give me a prompt and set me free. Then, I still have reason to buy those blank books!